California Employment Law Changes For 2020

Before the end of 2019, the California Legislature introduced several new employment laws which went into full operation on the 1st of January, 2020. It is important that you get acquainted with some of the new laws and their applications within the workplace. 

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What Are the New California Employment Laws in 2020? 

  • AB-5: Worker Status Contractor vs. Employee

According to Mo Eldessouky, founder and employment law attorney at Eldessouky Law Firm “This new law set the guideline for employers seeking to categorize workers as independent contractors as against the employee status. The California supreme court in 2018, decided that the ABC Test should be the determining factor for this categorization. Going by the adoption of the ABC Test, for a worker to be considered an Independent Contractor, the following conditions must be met; 

  1. The worker is free from the administration of the hiring entity in relation with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work.
  2. The worker executes projects that are beyond the usual scope of the hiring entity’s business 
  3. The worker is customarily is continuously engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity. 
  • AB-9: Extends Statute of Limitations on Harassment/Discrimination/Retaliation Claims

This new law change extends the statute of limitations on claims relating to employee harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. A breakdown of the AB-9 law is as follow;

  1. If an employee files a complaint of discrimination or harassment or retaliation with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, they had one year from the event to file that claim. Now, they have three years to do that. 
  2. Employees use to have one more year (after receipt of the right to sue letter from the DFEH) to file a civil action in court. But now employees have up to six years to carry out this action.
  3. Expired claims remain expired. 
  4. Employers must ensure that their harassment/discrimination/retaliation policy is updated, and they adhere to internal procedures for investigating a complaint. 
  5. Employers must keep investigation files separate from employee personal files and only accessed by HR staff responsible for the complaint investigation. 
  • AB-673: Permits Employees to Recover Civil Penalties for Unpaid Wages 

While there is a Labor Code 210, which is already in place for this, the AB-673 seems to amend it. This new law gives employees the right to recover civil penalties when they have not received their wages promptly. In the past, civil penalties were enforceable only through action by the Labor Commissioner; the new law removes the ability of the Labor Commissioner to remove penalties in an independent action. It also provides that employees may recover statutory penalties either under section AB 673 or the Private Attorney’s General Act but not for both. Above all, employers are liable for 25% of the amount unlawfully withheld for certain Labor Code violations. 

  • SB-142: Expands Lactation Accommodations

This law mandates employers to provide a lactation room or location, not a bathroom that; 

  1. Is near the employees’ work area and shielded from public view
  2. Free from intrusion while the employee is expressing milk 
  3. Safe, clean, and free of hazardous materials. It must contain a safe surface to sit, place the breast pump, and personal items. 
  4. Employers must provide access to a sink with running water and a refrigerator for storing milk near the employee’s working area. 
  5. Employers must develop and implement a lactation policy that gives lactating employees the right to request lactation accommodation 
  • SB-188: Hairstyle Discrimination 

Also referred to as the CROWN Act, which is Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair. It expands the FEHA’s definition of race to include traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and protective hairstyle. It also prohibits workplace dress code and grooming policies that disallow natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks. Besides, it mandates employers to review and update the Dress Code policy to include the above-protected hairstyle. 

  • AB-51: Places Prohibitions on Arbitration Agreement

AB-51 bans mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, continued employment, receipt of work-related benefits, or waving any rights to pursue a FEHA or Labor Code claim. It also prohibits employers from threatening or retaliating against an employee for refusing to sign an arbitration agreement. Although it doesn’t prevent an employer/employee from entering into such an agreement voluntarily. The AB-51 law will apply to only contracts entered, modified, or “extended” on or after January 1st, 2020.

  • AB-25: California Consumer Privacy Act

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) mandates that employers must keep applicant and employee information separate from any consumer or client information that is obtained for business reasons. Also, the CCPA gives consumers the right to know about and have deleted the data businesses have gathered about them, amongst other rights.

  • Changes in the California Minimum Wage 

In the past, the CA minimum wage has been increasing at $2 per hour each year. But with the new law, the CA minimum wage is now fixed at $12 per hour for companies with 25 employees or less and $13 per hour for companies with 26 employees and above. 

In Conclusion,

Other new or amended employment laws may not have been discussed in this article. Please check with an employment attorney for more information regarding the latest laws and amendments. This article is for informational purposes and not a piece of legal advice.

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